A client asked me about an update window that had popped up so I sat down in front of “Apple Updates” and stared at the three programs listed – “updates” to iTunes, QuickTime, and Safari. I’m as burned out as anybody on the unending stream of updates but okay, iTunes and QuickTime might plausibly have updated versions available.

But – Safari? That’s Apple’s Internet browser. It runs on PCs but nobody uses it, since it’s got no discernible advantages over any of the other browsers. Firefox is the only alternative browser I run into – it also has no discernible advantages over Internet Explorer, but Firefox has some religious believers and it isn’t worth quarreling about.

I confirmed that Safari wasn’t installed on that computer. Why was an “update” being offered?

It wasn’t an update. Apple is using its “update” program as a Trojan horse carrying software that is not already installed on your computer. This is a new version of Safari and its most significant selling point is that it’s allegedly “faster” than IE and Firefox. I’m sure all 14 of its current PC users are happy and vocal but Safari is a completely superfluous piece of software for XP and Vista computers.

I have my own religious belief. I want as little superfluous software as possible on your computers. Each duplicative program increases the chance that your computer will slow down or crash; increases the chance that unfamiliar programs will start when you click on a file or shortcut; increases the chance that you will be frustrated instead of productive.

I don’t like stealth installations. It makes me irritable when an update to Acrobat Reader tries to put on the useless “starter edition” of an obsolete version of Photoshop Elements. I get cranky when Java tries to sneak the Google Toolbar along with one of its updates. And don’t get me started on the “HP Memories Disc”! There are many, many more; it’s one of the important reasons I suggest always doing a “custom” installation instead of accepting the defaults on a new program or update.

Here are more details about Apple’s rogue installation. I don’t suggest installing Safari unless you’re motivated to deal with whatever problems it introduces and willing to stay on top of the stream of updates that it will require. Apple’s update to Safari version 3.1 is fixing thirteen serious security vulnerabilities in both the Mac and PC versions of the browser; it will be followed by version and version 3.1.7 and version 3.14152 and on and on and on. As Joe Wilcox notes, “Safari is fairly new to Windows and has yet to really show that it has can muster the security to withstand the associated attacks. Mac OS X is a quaint neighborhood where little Safari was safe. By comparison, Windows is a gang-ridden ghetto: life is survival, and it’s tough going.”

On the client’s computer today, in addition to declining the Safari installation, I found that Apple Updates could be separately uninstalled from Add/Remove Programs, which was precisely the right way to solve the problem.

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